Mexico City: A fire sparked by suspected fuel thieves killed four people and forced Mexico’s state oil company Pemex to temporarily halt pumping operations along a pipeline in the country’s violent eastern state of Veracruz, the company said on Saturday.
Pemex said the fire was brought swiftly under control and none of the four victims found alongside a car near the pipeline were believed to be Pemex workers.
The pipeline has a capacity of 73,000 barrels per day and transports gasoline and diesel from Pemex’s Minatitlan oil refinery to Mexico City.
The incident occurred near the town of El Mango, in a region particularly rife with drug-trafficking. It came about a week after four soldiers and six suspected oil thieves died in a clash in the Mexican state of Puebla, just south of Veracruz.
Fuel siphoning is a growing problem for the oil-producing nation and the army has launched an operation against organised criminal groups behind it.
“Specialised personnel are carrying out the work for the elimination of this clandestine theft,” Pemex said in a statement.
Pemex has said it is losing a record 27,000 barrels per day of gasoline and diesel to criminal gangs.